If it seems like the jump shot is a dying art in the NBA every time they reveal a Top 10 full of dunks on SportsCenter. Rest assured that there is still a place for the jump shot at the collegiate level.
The jump shot, and in particular the three-point shot, is the great equalizer in college basketball. It allows Cinderella squads to capture the hearts of the nation in March Madness. Also, it allows someone like Stephen Curry or Jimmer Fredette to be appointment viewing despite the fact that they didn’t play for a traditional powerhouse.
So who will have the prettiest jumper in the 2013-14 season? Read on to find out.
We are working under the assumption that Baylor’s Brady Heslip will return to form this season from behind the three-point arc. After all, he is too talented of a shooter to struggle again in 2013-14.
Of course, Heslip may have struggled by the standards he set for himself by shooting nearly 46 percent from downtown in 2011-12, but he still shot better than 38 percent from long range last year. That is nothing to sneeze at, but the senior should see his numbers return to what they were two seasons ago.
With the number of talented big men that the Bears return this year, many opposing defenses will be forced to sink inside. With so much traffic in the paint and down low, Heslip will be open for jump shots all year.
They will go in at a very high rate.
Rasheed Sulaimon was a solid but not spectacular three-point shooter last season percentage-wise at 37 percent, but he showed glimpses of how truly special of a shooter he can be during stretches of his freshman campaign.
That year of experience under his belt will certainly help with the streakiness, but Sulaimon will also benefit from the fact that Duke will have so many weapons on the perimeter in 2013-14. Between Jabari Parker, Quinn Cook and Rodney Hood, along with Sulaimon himself, the Blue Devils have a litany of options to choose from.
Much of the defensive attention will likely be on Parker, which will open Sulaimon up for plenty of looks. He will knock them down with more consistency this year and play a big role on what should be a Final Four squad.
There’s nothing wrong with showing a little love for a freshman on a list like this, and Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison is certainly worthy of the praise.
He is a deadly three-point shooter and is expected to be a primary contributor right away in Lexington. While his brother Andrew will have the task of finding a way to get all the talented Wildcats enough shots as the point guard, Aaron will spot up behind the three-point line and drain open looks all season.
He is also a capable ball-handler and can attack the rim, but with the personnel on Kentucky’s squad, Aaron will likely be the shooter. When double teams come on the block for Julius Randle or the defense collapses on James Young and Andrew, Aaron will be waiting to make the defense pay from long range.
Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross hasn’t proven on a consistent basis yet just how good his jump shot can be, but that will change in the 2013-14 season.
The Buckeyes’ swingman came to Columbus with high expectations and was supposed to contribute right away as a long-range threat. An early academic-based suspension derailed his freshman campaign, and he has been gradually earning more playing time since.
We saw hints of how lethal his shot can be in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments in March, and now that Deshaun Thomas is no longer at Ohio State, Ross will be expected to make the leap to premier scorer. Whether he will be successful or not will depend largely on how accurate his three-point shooting is this year.
Expect Ross to deliver on his potential.
Virginia’s Joe Harris may be the most underrated player in the country.
He is rarely ever talked about when it comes to ACC stars, despite the fact that he was an All-Conference First Team performer in 2012-13. If he had Duke or North Carolina across the front of his jersey, he would likely be a household name among college hoops fans at this point.
A primary reason Harris was able to earn a spot on the All-ACC team is his jump shot. He shot better than 42 percent from behind the three-point line despite being the main focus of opposing defenses every night out.
He was also a solid free-throw shooter and scorer from inside the arc. Look for Harris to once again average better than 15 points a night and possibly even carry Virginia to the NCAA tournament this year.
Michigan State’s Gary Harris was only a freshman in 2012-13, but he has the chance to play himself into the next NBA draft lottery with an impressive sophomore campaign.
He is a much more versatile player than just a pure shooter, but his jump shot is one of the many assets he has which makes him great. He shot 41 percent from behind the three-point line last year, and did so while battling shoulder injuries for some of the season.
Expect a healthy Harris to have plenty of open looks alongside the likes of Keith Appling, Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne. The Spartans are loaded and should be the favorites in a deep Big Ten, and Harris’ decision to return to school is a primary reason why.
His 41 percent shooting totals will improve in 2013-14, and NBA scouts will continue to take notice.
Michael Frazier II came off the bench last season for Billy Donovan’s Florida squad, but if he shoots three-pointers the way he did as a freshman, he will see significant starter’s minutes as a sophomore.
He knocked down an impressive 47 percent of his three-point attempts in 2012-13 and shot even better than that in SEC play. He had one very clear role last year—plant behind the arc and fire away whenever there is a chance.
Frazier averaged 3.1 three-point attempts a game and only 0.8 two-point attempts a game. He may have to insert a bit more versatility into the arsenal if he hopes to earn a starting role, but his lethal shooting is more than enough to scare opposing coaches.
Incoming point guard Kasey Hill is a pass-first specialist and will look to find an open Frazier all season long.
Nik Stauskas was overshadowed last season by the likes of Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III, but he will certainly be on more radars in the 2013-14 campaign.
Alongside Robinson and Mitch McGary, Stauskas is Michigan’s most proven player heading into the season. His role will largely be that of long-range gunner, but it is one that he fills quite effectively. Stauskas shot an impressive 44 percent from behind the three-point arc during a freshman season that saw him attempt nearly five threes a game and less than three two-point attempts a game.
Whether the high shooting percentage was the result of Burke drawing extra defensive attention and then kicking it out remains to be seen, but it is a safe bet Stauskas will once again rank among the nation’s leaders in three-point shooting.
Princeton’s Will Barrett may not have the name recognition that many of these shooters from power conference schools do, but he led the nation in three-point percentage last year and is arguably the favorite to do it again this season.
Barrett shot nearly 52 percent from downtown in 2012-13, which was a drastic improvement from the rest of his career. In his first two full seasons (he missed much of 2011-12 due to injury), Barrett shot 29.2 percent and 31.3 percent respectively from behind the arc. Granted, he averaged less than one three a game during those years, but it is still quite a difference.
After a season like he just had though, Barrett’s three-point shooting confidence will be at an all-time high heading into the 2013-14 campaign. If Princeton is going to compete for an Ivy League title, it will need its sharpshooter to once again deliver on a consistent basis.
He certainly will.
Somehow the old and reliable Doug McDermott still has a season of eligibility left at Creighton, and he plans on using it to once again torture opposing defenses with his jump shot.
The star will compete for the national scoring crown for yet another campaign and will do so against better defenses than he is accustomed to playing. The new look Big East will feature Creighton along with the likes of Xavier, Georgetown and Marquette among others, and McDermott will be expected to carry his squad to the NCAA tournament.
Last season, McDermott shot an astronomical 49 percent from downtown, and did so as the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 focus for opposing defenses. He is also nearly automatic from the free-throw stripe at this point of his career and has no issues playing closer to the basket.
McDermott is one of the best players in all of college basketball and will shoot the lights out again in 2013-14.
Follow and interact with college basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.